22 Chaldean Bishops and Priests completed their spiritual exercises

Ahmadiya,Iraq,Aug.24,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – Priests in Iraq are a “sign of hope for the persecuted Church”, but also for national reconciliation; this was the theme at the centre of prayers and reflection shared by 18 Chaldean priests and 4 bishops from the North of the country who spent three days from August 20 to 23 gathered at the retreat centre of Komané –Ahmadiya Diocese – for their spiritual exercises.  The Dominican priest Nageeb Merkhael led the retreat.


Coordinator Fr.Imad Khochab, gave an account of the three days in an official press release in Arabic.  “We focused on the 4 dimensions of the life of a priest – the statement reads – spiritual, intellectual, social and pastoral, in order to renew our image of the priest, of the priest’ service and sacrifice so that he may truly be a sign of hope”.  The occasion – continues the statement – allowed us to strengthen our faith and our commitment to our mission despite the difficult circumstances and the sacrifices”.


Among the bishops participating in the retreat was Msgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Rabban al Qas, from Ahmadiya, Msgr. Petros Hanna Issa Al-Harboli, from Zahko, msgr.  Mikha Pola Mandassi, from Alqosh. Speaking to AsiaNews Msgr. Sako said: “For all of us this was a very special moment of prayer and mediation on the situation and our role as a Church”. Among participants there was the shared awareness that: “the Chaldean Church is a persecuted Church, whose strength lies in the power of its faith and its spirit.  This is how it conserves its prophetic freedom and its hope”.  The archbishop of Kirkuk,  had words of admiration for the “courage of young priests who with great personal sacrifice nurture hope and dream of a strong Iraqi Church, which defends human dignity and denounces injustice against the weakest members of society.  A Church called to work for peace and reconciliation”.


On the sidelines of the spiritual exercises the 4 bishops decided also made some technical decisions, such as how to adopt the salary system: the diocese will finance the work and travel of priests within and outside of their own parishes, This procedure “frees the priest from material concerns and safeguards his dignity, allowing him to completely dedicate himself to his mission”.


Moreover, in the aftermath of the retreat in Komanè a series of conferences on theological, liturgical and pastoral themes has been planned, so that the priests may “absorb all that is new, putting it to work in their service and unify, as far as possible, the various points of view of the different aspects of the 5 Northern dioceses”.

Archbishop Gracias to lead CCBI delegates for Synod Of Bishops

New Delhi,India,July.19(CINS/CBCI News) - Archbishop Oswald Gracias, president of CCBI and Archbishop of Bombay will lead the CCBI delegates for the forthcoming 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place October 5 to 26, 2008 in the Vatican.

The Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) Plenary Assembly has elected Archbishop of Bombay Oswald Gracias, Bishop of Tiruchirapalli Antony Devotta, Bishop of Jamshedpur Felix Toppo, S.J., and Bishop of Kannur Varghese Chakkalakal to attend the Synod on the theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church".

Bishop of Hazaribag Charles Soreng, S.J., has been elected as the substitute delegate.

The preparatory documents of the Synod have already been sent to each Bishop seeking response/s from all over the world, which includes a list of detailed Questions associated with the subject treated in each chapter.

Episcopal bodies have been asked to submit a written response to these questions before November of this year. The Ordinary Council, assisted by specialists, will then study this material and present it in an orderly fashion in a second document, traditionally called the "Instrumentum Laboris".

Pope Benedict XVI has convoked the Synod of Bishops for 2008 dedicated to sacred Scripture and its relationship to the mission of the Church.

It will be the second synod presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father presided over the synod on the Eucharist in October 2005, which had been convoked by Pope John Paul II.

The theme of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held from 2 - 23 October 2005 was “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.”

Pope Benedict XVI introduced two novelties to that synod - he shortened the length of the meeting from four to three weeks, and he introduced free interventions before the assembly.

Pope Benedict XVI infact released a document based on the proposals of the Synod of 2005. His second major document, "Sacramentum Caritatis" (Sacrament of Charity), an apostolic exhortation is based on the deliberations of the 2005 Bishops’ Synod on the Eucharist.

The text says, "The synod fathers acknowledged and reaffirmed the beneficial influence on the Church's life of the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.”

The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution established by Pope Paul VI by Motu Proprio "Apostolica sollicitudo" of 15 September 1965 as a way to maintain the level of collegiality among bishops reached at the Second Vatican Council.

Defining the Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul Vl once said, "It is an ecclesiastic institution, which, on interrogating the signs of the times and as well as trying to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church, we set up after Vatican Council II in order to foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See.”

“It does this by means of a common study concerning the conditions of the Church and a joint solution on matters concerning Her mission. It is neither a Council nor a Parliament but a special type of Synod", he added.

Philippines Bishops urge government to review dreaded anti-terror law

Manila,Philippines,July.10,2007(CINS/AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) today called on the government to revise a new anti-terrorism law which will enter into force on 15 July, saying the unlimited powers it confers upon the army “are creating panic and insecurity among the population, and could become a cause of gross injustice”.

A statement to this effect was released by the president of the conference, Mgr Angel Lagdameo, during a press meeting at the end of the plenary assembly of bishops, which took place in Manila: “Time is running out, yet there is a need to talk, discuss and review the new law prior to its effect.”

The bishops said the definition of “terrorist activities” in the law is unjust: it is “too wide and allows the government to include anything.” What’s more, “the concessions made to the military should be reviewed, they are practically unlimited”.

According to Section 3 of the text, “terrorist activities” are all those actions “causing widespread and extraordinary fear and panic” and they may be punished by “up to 40 years in prison”. Further, Section 19 allows the “allows arbitrary detention of a suspect for more than three days, house arrest even if not upheld by a judge and a ban on all kinds of movement”.

The bishops “as pastors of the people, have to look more into the morality of this law. We feel it is unjust and call for a review that will permit dialogue and social consultation.”

Message of Bishops on use of resources

Brazzaville,Congo,July.10,2007(CINS/MISNA) - The proper management of natural resources, making an effort to reduce the level of insecurity, while appealing to the people and new leaders’ responsibility are among the main themes in the message sent by the National Episcopal Conference of RDC Congo (CENCO) from Kinshasa.

The document is entitled “New Wine in New Wineskins”, quoting the Gospel of Mark 2,22. the 28 point document, signed by 47 bishops, is intended as a call to “change the mentality to save our country from the dangers that hover over it once again”. Reaffirming the principle of the ‘integrity and intangibility of the Congolese national territory’, CENCO said that mineral, oil and forestry resources have become the source of many troubles. “How else to understand that our citizens find themselves, without compensation, deprived or their lands because of the concession or sale of land to this or that mining or forestry manager?" ask the bishops, who have announced the creation of a “ad hoc Episcopal commission” to better understand the exploitation of resources and human rights.

“The eager search for natural resources fuels insecurity”, says the message, even as its signatories express their concern for “the imminent exploitation of oil in Lake Albert in Ituri" and their doubt as to whether or not the population shall get any related benefits. The bishops noted that there is insecurity ion all their dioceses in the form of rape, robbery, kidnapping and even excessive taxes and fines or arbitrary arrest. The bishops have condemned all such acts, which are perpetrated by some officers of the law and order forces, militias and foreign rebels present in the national territory”. CENCO also discusses the murder of journalists in one paragraph.

As for the new government’s budget for 2007, the bishops find this to be “highly limited where the great projects and promises that were announced are concerned" as the people anxiously await an improvement in the quality of life. CENCO asks that the government show the courage to strengthen the surveillance of national borders and air space while restoring the forests that have been exploited. As for the international community, CENCO asks – also in view of what has already been said by Benedict XVI – “to set up procedures for a rapid, complete and unconditional annulment of the external debt of highly indebted and least developed countries”, as well as to promote favorable trade conditions and reduce arms sales.


Vatican city,July.07,2007(CINS/VIS) - Given below is the text of the English-language version of Benedict XVI's Letter to all the bishops of the world concerning his Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum," which was published today:


  "With great trust and hope, I am consigning to you as pastors the text of a new Apostolic Letter 'Motu Proprio data' on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The document is the fruit of much reflection, numerous consultations and prayer.


  "News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion. There have been very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown.


  "This document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter.


  "In the first place, there is the fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions - the liturgical reform - is being called into question.


  "This fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal form - the 'Forma ordinaria' - of the Eucharistic liturgy. The last version of the 'Missale Romanum' prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a 'Forma extraordinaria' of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were 'two rites.' Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.


  "As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a 'Forma extraordinaria' of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level. Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood. This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration. We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.


  "Pope John Paul II thus felt obliged to provide, in his Motu Proprio 'Ecclesia Dei' (July 2, 1988), guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal; that document, however, did not contain detailed prescriptions but appealed in a general way to the generous response of bishops towards the 'legitimate aspirations' of those members of the faithful who requested this usage of the Roman Rite. At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to assist the Society of St. Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more painfully. Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about. Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio. On the other hand, difficulties remain concerning the use of the 1962 Missal outside of these groups, because of the lack of precise juridical norms, particularly because bishops, in such cases, frequently feared that the authority of the Council would be called into question. Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio. The present norms are also meant to free bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations.


  "In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often. Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.


  "It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The 'Ecclesia Dei' Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the 'usus antiquior,' will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.


  "I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio updating that of 1988. It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church's leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: "Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return ... widen your hearts also!" (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.


  "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.


  "In conclusion, dear brothers, I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own diocese.


  "Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio.


  "Furthermore, I invite you, dear brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.


  "Dear brothers, with gratitude and trust, I entrust to your hearts as pastors these pages and the norms of the Motu Proprio. Let us always be mindful of the words of the Apostle Paul addressed to the presbyters of Ephesus: 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.'


  "I entrust these norms to the powerful intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to you, dear Brothers, to the parish priests of your dioceses, and to all the priests, your co-workers, as well as to all your faithful."

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